Star Power: Does St. Louis Have It?

Considering my busy schedule, I’ve been writing a lot lately; and there has been a lot to write about recently. The Rams ditched town, hockey is hockey-ing, and ZiPS released their annual projections, so there has certainly been quite a bit for me to discuss; and speaking of those projections, they will be cited, and we will be talking more baseball. So let’s do it.

On Monday, St. Louis columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote an article headlined, Cardinals Have Depth Among Position Players but is There a Star in the House? As a precursor, I have not actually read the article, but just the headline got me thinking and researching. So here’s my take on the proposed ‘issue’, apologies in advance to Bernie if I steal any of his points as it is unintentional.

Before we dive in I want to define what I mean by ‘star’ or ‘star-power’. A star is someone who is within the top 5 for MVP candidacy or Cy Young candidacy. A Paul Goldschmidt or Mike Trout or Kris Bryant type player that produces big numbers and can have an entire lineup or pitching staff revolve around him.

Moving on.

Last season, en route to becoming the first team since the 2011 Phillies to win 100 games, the Cardinals had no position player exceed the 6.5 WAR benchmark set by Jason Heyward and no pitcher exceed the 5.6 WAR benchmark set by John Lackey.

Both of those players are gone, which leaves the highest returning WAR being Matt Carpenter’s 3.9. 3.9 WAR certainly isn’t indicative of a bad player, but it’s definitely not star-level production. The highest ZiPS projected position players, in terms of WAR, for the 2016 Cardinals are Carpenter at 3.8 WAR and Yadier Molina at 3.3 WAR.

All solid numbers, but nothing to really revolve the world around. But, as I brought up earlier in my article about how underrated the Pirates were, ZiPS has a tendency to perennially underrate teams and players – looking at you, Royals.

If you’re looking for the stars in St. Louis, it takes a lot of optimism and hometown bias to find them. Fortunately for the sake of this article, I have both of those things in spades.

If you asked a random sample of 100 people that know the game of baseball, “who is the best position player on the St. Louis Cardinals?” your answers would vastly vary.

All of the stat-heads would tell you that Matt Carpenter is because of his combination of surprising power and his ability to get on base at a very healthy clip. Fans who watch the Cardinals on a day-to-day basis and trust their eyes more than the numbers – kind of like me – would tell you Yadier Molina is the best player on the Cardinals and it’s not up for debate. Optimists would tell you Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty and pessimists would tell you Matt Holliday is still the best of a bad bunch.

Asking the same question to the same audience about who the best pitcher was would reveal many different answers as well. Stat-heads would say Carlos Martinez because of his ability to punch people out, keep the ball in the ballpark and do all of the things that FIP-people enjoy. The same people that told you Yadier Molina was the best position player would tell you that Adam Wainwright was clearly the best pitcher because of his ‘ace’ status and workhorse mentality and that won’t change until he retires. Optimists still believe in Michael Wacha and pessimists would argue for Lance Lynn – even though he’s hurt. But that’s all a different article for a different day.

Unlike a lot of other teams, the debate of who is the best position player and pitcher in St. Louis yields a multitude of different answers. It’s an extremely unique situation that the Cardinals have, as this exercise proves their exceptional depth but also proves their lack of top-end talent.

So are there any true “stars” in St. Louis?

Carpenter 1
Photo by Dilip Vishwanet for Getty Images

If you’re really optimistic, you might believe that Matt Carpenter is the star in St. Louis. In 2013 he displayed his now legendary penchant for getting on base by posting a .392 OBP and leading the league with 126 runs scored, 199 hits, and 82 walks to only 98 strikeouts. 2 years later, in 2015, Carpenter demonstrated his surprising power, blasting 28 home runs, knocking in 84 runs, slugging a robust .505, still walking a healthy 81 times to augment a .365 OBP and doing all of this out of the leadoff spot.

In my years of studying baseball, I have broken down hitters into two categories; hitters either slug, or they get on base. If you do both, you’re a superstar, and if you do neither you’re not playing professional baseball.

Carpenter has shown the ability to both get on base and slug, but combining them is something we have yet to see. If he can, expect to see a season similar to his 6.3 WAR campaign in 2013, except look for more of those 55 doubles Carpenter mashed to leave the ballpark. Optimistically, Carpenter can absolutely be a superstar; realistically, he’ll continue to be a 4 or 5 win player that is vastly underappreciated and undervalued.

Much like Carpenter, it requires a lot of optimism to view guys like Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty as superstars; but it is possible.

In just 350 PA in 2015, Grichuk produced a 3.5 WAR thanks to his terrific defense (9 defensive runs saved in just 783 innings in the field) and immense raw power (.548 slugging, .272 ISO). Projected out over 600 PA – again, according to my brilliant math skills – Grichuk produces 6.0 WAR and 29 HR; pushing superstar territory.

Grichuk 1
Photo by Harry How for Getty Images

The only real issue with Grichuk is his strikeout rate is alarmingly high (31.4%) and his walk rate is far too low (6.4%) which produced a .329 OBP. Ideally, Grichuk cuts down his strikeout rate, walks more, and thus gets more pitches to hit, but it’s hard to complain about the numbers I just projected out. But for the sake of this article, not quite a superstar level player.

Stephen Piscotty is the position player wild card for St. Louis. A textbook case of ‘small sample size theater’, Piscotty posted terrific numbers in a small amount of PA – .853 OPS, .189 ISO, 143 WRC+ and a .372 BABIP thanks to the 13th highest average velocity on balls in play (approx. 305 MPH). As Fangraphs’ Mike Podhorzer pointed out, this could either be the tip of the iceberg for a budding superstar, or it could be a flash in a pan for a slightly above average outfielder.

So what do I make of all those numbers?

I think Grichuk has shown his peak. He’s an extremely athletic outfielder – Cardinals’ hitting coach John Mabry called him a “Lamborghini” this past spring training – who plays above average defense at all three outfield positions and can hit a baseball a long way. Of the two categories of hitters that I brought up earlier, Grichuk slugs, and he slugs well. But I think it’s rather unrealistic to expect him to get on base at the type of clip that would warrant the ‘superstar’ label his slugging prowess would justify.

As for Piscotty, I firmly believe that he is a lineup staple in St. Louis, and the crown jewel of the whole Albert Pujols episode (sorry, Michael Wacha). Throughout the minors he showed an ability to consistently get on base, and while in the majors he showed a much greater ability to drive the baseball – thanks to some swing adjustments he made during the 2014-15 offseason. Is he a superstar right now? Not yet, but his time is coming and I believe that.

Piscotty 1
Photo by Jeff Curry for Getty Images

The Cardinals may not have a Mike Trout-type perennial MVP candidate in their stockpile of position players, but unlike Mike Trout’s Anaheim team the Cardinals have next to no positional weaknesses and their depth is unmatched.

Catcher? The best defensive catcher in the history of the game and the backbone of the club resides back there. 3rd base? Carpenter and his projected 3.8 WAR. Jhonny Peralta and his 7.5 WAR over the past two seasons holds down the fort at SS, while Kolten Wong and Jedd Gyorko project out as a 3.5 WAR platoon at second. I evaluated 1st base just this past week, but between Brandon Moss and Matt Adams, St. Louis is still projected to post up 2.3 WAR. Between the outfield trio of Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk, and Stephen Piscotty, the Cardinal outfield is projected to be worth 8.2 WAR in 2016. The Cardinals top 5 bench options – which I’ve designated as Matt Adams, Tommy Pham, Greg Garcia, Brayan Peña and Jedd Gyorko – are projected to be worth 6.3 WAR.

As I said, the Cardinals depth is unmatched, but they do lack star power. You can’t describe them as top heavy, but the midsection of the St. Louis roster is incredibly thick and talented.

Is it a 100 win team? Probably not, but is it the team that ZiPS has projected for 84 wins? To me, that seems like an insult. I brought this up the other day, but I believe St. Louis will thrive in the underdog role the media has placed them in.

And their stockpile of middle-end talent will be leading the charge.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

 

 

 

Star Power: Does St. Louis Have It?

The Cardinals: How to Fix 1st Base

This past weekend, at the Cardinals’ annual ‘Winter Warm-Up’, most of the talk that I heard surrounded the Chicago Cubs. How will the Cardinals react to being underdogs? Is this finally the year Chicago wins it all? In what new way can the Cubs destroy St. Louis next?

The rivalry with Chicago is, without a doubt, the most interesting storyline entering the 2016 season for St. Louis, but as I was thinking about how the Cardinals match up with Chicago the other day I realized something.

First base is a confusing black hole in St. Louis.

There are two types of positional solutions in modern baseball; conventional wisdom would claim that every position needs a primary starter that will receive between 90 and 95% of the at-bats while teams like Oakland and Tampa Bay have revolutionized the platoon, a system in which two players almost evenly split at bats to highlight the specific strengths of each player.

The Cardinals have neither of those

What St. Louis does have is a pair of left handed sluggers who play average defense, have big power potential and are more fit to be platoon first basemen. Therein lies the issue…both of them are left handed.

How are you supposed to platoon two left handed first baseman?

Both Brandon Moss and Matt Adams have shown that they are capable of handling a starting job at 1st base; and not just starting, but being above average players.

Over 563 PA as the primary Cardinals’ 1st baseman during the 2014 campaign, Adams produced a 129 OPS+, mashed 17 dingers and drove home 68 en route to a 3.4 WAR. During the 3 seasons he spent as Oakland’s starting 1B, Moss delivered an .844 OPS, 135 OPS+, hammered 76 HR’s and accumulated 6.5 WAR. Both guys are capable of being above average starting 1st basemen, but both guys come with their share of uncertainty.

Adams
The epic 2014 NLCS bat flip. Photo courtesy of Cut4

After his breakout 2014 season, Adams entered 2015 looking to solidify himself as the Cardinals’ 1st baseman of the future when a devastating May quad injury robbed him of just about all of his season. His knee injury forced Mark Reynolds into primary duty, and when Reynolds – not really suited for a full time starting job – started to falter, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was forced to deal for Brandon Moss.

Moss came to the Cardinals following a disappointing half season in Cleveland in which his power was sapped by an offseason back surgery. After hitting 30 homers in only 505 PA during the 2014 season, Moss was only able to hit 15 homers in 526 PA during 2015.

So take your pick between the guy coming off the serious leg injury or the guy coming off the serious back injury as your primary first baseman. In true baseball fashion, the Cardinals current 1st base situation is unpredictable and uncertain.

The question is pretty obvious, but unfortunately the answer is far from obvious. As I brought up earlier, how in the world are you supposed to platoon two left handed 1st basemen? But let’s say we were to try and do it, how would it work?

The point of a platoon is to highlight each player’s splits vs. a left handed or right handed pitcher. So if player A can hit lefties but not righties, while player B can hit righties but not lefties, player A and player B would naturally form an ideal platoon. So let’s check the splits.

Adams – in a pretty small sample size – slashes .197/.230/.317 with 6 HR, 26 RBI and a 30.9% strikeout percentage in 230 PA. If my years in baseball have taught me anything, that’s not anything to be real proud of.

Moss – in a much larger sample size – slashes .246/.322/.399 with 16 HR, 71 RBI and a 28.1% strikeout percentage in 559 PA, nearly a full season’s worth of PA to base these numbers. Again, not particularly outstanding but certainly respectable.

Moss.jpg
Photo Courtesy of FoxSports.com

Against right handed pitchers over his brief career, Adams has accrued a much larger sample size of 929 PA; and in those 929 PA he slashes .296/.337/.485 with 33 HR, 130 RBI and a 20.2% strikeout percentage.

Moss – in 2,097 PA vs right handers – slashes .243/.322/.463 with 94 HR, 285 RBI and a surprisingly robust 25.8% strikeout percentage. While he strikes out less vs. righties, Adams’ walk rate is a paltry 5.9% while Moss’ walk rate is a less paltry 10.5%.

These splits really only further complicate the problem. Both guys are bad against southpaws, but Moss is less bad than Adams. Both guys are pretty good against righties, but Adams is better than Moss. So do you start Adams vs. righties and start Moss’ vs. lefties? It’s a possibility, but facing right handers would give Adams the majority of the at bats and would be not only irresponsible, but would defeat the purpose of a platoon.

Knowing Mike Matheny and his penchant for simple positional solutions, the Cardinals will probably give both guys equal opportunity over the course of the first few weeks of the season before riding the guy who plays the best over those few weeks as the primary starter. Matheny did this in 2014 when he split at-bats in CF between Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay before giving the full time job – whether it was fair or unfair is up for debate – to Jay when Bourjos went ice cold at the plate.

So what do I believe? I believe that Adams’ 2014 season was his ceiling and that he really doesn’t have much more to offer the Cardinals, while Moss’ massive power potential combined with a full offseason spent gaining back his lost strength from the aforementioned back surgery make him the best option.

As has been well chronicled, the Cardinals lack a truly transcendent power bat in the middle of their lineup. While Moss won’t ever really be a Ryan Howard-esque superstar, he can still deliver the power that has been missing from the Cardinals lineup since Albert Pujols left town.

It’s a fascinating conundrum that has plagued the Cardinals all offseason, but for St. Louis to take the next step in the postseason, 1st base must be solidified. If either guy can take control of the position to the full extent of his abilities, the Cardinals will be solidified and ready to challenge the Cubs for the division title that has seemingly already been presented to them.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

Credit to Fangraphs and Baseball Reference for all data used in this post

 

The Cardinals: How to Fix 1st Base

Why is Everyone Overlooking the Pittsburgh Pirates?

The NFL makes me sick. It’s product has been diluted by the cartel-esque nature of its business dealings, slow replay, annoying announcers, too many flags, and the all-too-prevalent knowledge that just about everyone on the field is risking their lives for a game and an organization that only cares about the money they subconsciously produce.

Watching football just makes me sad and it makes me miss baseball even more than I already do. With all of this so eloquently being said, let’s talk baseball.

The Cubs. You’re scared of them, I’m scared of them, and we’re all scared of them. Their stockpile of superstar position players and top end starting pitching talent has them poised to end the famous 108 year World Series drought. The questions have stopped being, “can the Cubs do it?” and have turned towards, “Who in the wide world of sports is going to stop them?”

Amid all this talk of the Cubs meteoric rise to world dominance and the Cardinals’ seeming fall from grace we’ve forgotten about something.

The Pirates are still really good at baseball.

Pirates 1
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

Like I said, all the National League talk has been about Cardinals-Cubs, the Giants’ even year devil magic, the Diamondbacks’ rise to prominence, the Braves’ terrific rebuild, and whether the Mets can sustain last year’s run to the Fall Classic. Lost amid all this shuffle is the fact that the Pirates were a 98 win team last year. 98 wins is something that only 3 other teams have achieved in the past 5 seasons.

So why is everyone overlooking Pittsburgh?

This is most definitely a product of my St. Louis-based bias, but I believe that both the Cardinals and the Pirates will thrive in the underdog roles they have been placed in. Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny has always been known as a terrific motivator and his usage of an ‘us against the world’ mentality carried his team all the way to the World Series in 2013. Same thing with Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle minus the World Series appearance.

You can take that last paragraph with a grain of salt as it is a byproduct of my own estimation of the two teams’ respective dugout mindsets and has no real facts behind it. But the mental aspect of baseball is so important, and a talented team that has a chip placed on its shoulder suddenly becomes astronomically more dangerous in my estimation.

In 2013, ZiPS had the Red Sox projected for 82 wins. Instead, following an April tragedy, the Red Sox reeled off 97 wins and a world title. If you think this had nothing to do with the extra motivation and chip that was a derivative of the Boston Marathon bombing you’re just kidding yourself.

The aforementioned ZiPS has the Pirates projected to win 83 games in 2016, a far cry from the 98 they won just a season ago. This came as a surprise to me, considering the team they fielded just last year is the one they will largely put out on the field again this upcoming season.

In the field, the only noticeable weakness is 1st base, which Michael Morse will presumably occupy. Other than that, everything is set, and room for improvement is to be expected.

Coming into 2015, Korean import Jung-ho Kang didn’t have a set role and thus had to scrap for at-bats. Even with a late season injury that cost him the final few weeks of 2015, Kang posted a 4.0 WAR in just 467 plate appearances. With Neil Walker now in New York, Kang is the opening day 2nd baseman and can expect a full season’s worth of plate appearances barring another unforeseen injury. According to my rudimentary math skills, increasing Kang’s at-bats to 600 – combined with the same type of 2015 production – would produce 5.14 WAR, a +1.4 increase.

After a breakout 2014 campaign in which he produced 5.3 WAR and finished 9th in MVP voting, 3rd baseman Josh Harrison spent much of 2015 on the shelf with various injuries. In 449 PA, Harrison logged 1.8 WAR. For whatever reason, ZiPS only projects Harrison to have 480 PA in 2016, yet produce 2.4 WAR in those 480 PA. Give him 600 PA on that pace and he produces 3.0 WAR on that pace.

And about the 1st base situation, in 89 PA with Pittsburgh in 2015 Morse produced 0.2 WAR, outpacing Pedro Alvarez’s 0.1 WAR in 491 PA. So if Morse even produces a simple 1.0 WAR in 2016 the Pirates will be improving at 1st base instead of declining.

The pitching staff remains wholly intact, only losing AJ Burnett and J.A. Happ, who have been replaced by the free agent signing of Ryan Vogelsong and the acquisition of Jon Niese from the New York Mets. In 2015, the starting staff of Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, J.A. Happ, A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano and Jeff Locke produced a combined WAR of 10.8. ZiPS has the Pirates 2016 starting staff of Gerrit Cole, Jon Niese, Charlie Morton, Francisco Liriano and Jeff Locke projected to produce a combined WAR of 11.6.

11.6 is more than 10.8 in case your math is off and again, the Pirates are projected to improve, not decline.

The Pirates still have star power in the outfield between Gregory Polanco, Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte. That trio produced 12.8 WAR in 2015 and ZiPS has them projected at 12.7 WAR this season.

Behind the plate, Francisco Cervelli remains the primary catcher with Chris Stewart serving as the backup, however ZiPS only has Cervelli projected to get 326 PA. As I have done before, I’m going to use my brilliant math skills to see what kind of production Cervelli would deliver if given 600 PA. On his projected pace Cervelli would produce 4.6 WAR in 600 PA, an increase of his 2015 output of 3.1 WAR in 510 PA.

For the sake of saving my brain cells I’m only going to look at the top 4 relievers in the Pittsburgh bullpen. In 2015, the quartet of Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Antonio Bastardo and Jared Hughes produced 6.5 WAR in 276.1 IP. The 2016 estimated quartet of Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Radhames Liz and Juan Nicasio are projected to produce 4.1 WAR in 285.1 IP.

The bullpen is the only significant drop-off in WAR that I found between the Pirates’ 2015 squad and their 2016 projected squad. Granted, these are all projections, but even still I don’t understand how Pittsburgh factors as an 83 win team while fielding virtually the same team that won 98 games just a year ago.

Miami Marlins v Pittsburgh Pirates
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

It caught my eye and made me raise an eyebrow when I looked at it, but that’s just the thing; I looked at it.

As I brought up earlier, Pittsburgh has been severely overlooked throughout the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry talk and other things. A 98 win team is not one to overlook, and with the team they’ll be putting out on the field in 2016, the Pirates could make some serious noise.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

All credit to Fangraphs and Baseball Reference for data used in this post

Why is Everyone Overlooking the Pittsburgh Pirates?

How the NHL Seriously Messed Up the John Scott Situation

I’m going to take a break from being unhappy with the NFL/NDC – National Drug Cartel – and I’m going to express some unhappiness with something that the National Hockey League has done.

In every league except the MLB, the annual All-Star Game is a fun exhibition that is designed to showcase the very best talent in the given league facing off against one another. It’s a really fun weekend for all involved and serves as a break from the strenuous regular season schedule.

And on Friday, the NHL decided to take their All-Star Game way too seriously.

Another aspect that each of the All-Star Games share in common is the fan vote. The fans get to vote in the players that they want to see, and those players start the game. It’s a very well-meaning process, designed to get the fans involved, but it often goes somewhat awry.

As we saw last summer with the MLB All-Star Game, certain fan groups can take over the vote – as Kansas City Royals fans attempted to do when they voted 7 of their guys into the American League starting lineup. Were all 7 of these guys worthy of All-Star starting nods? Nope, but that didn’t stop the fans.

In the same light, NHL fans somewhat jokingly starting a ‘Get John Scott to the All-Star Game’ campaign. It was funny at first – as Scott is a 6’8” tough guy with 11 career points in 258 career games – but suddenly, as the final vote drew closer, Scott began to run away with the vote. In the end, Scott won a starting spot in the NHL’s very first 3 on 3 All-Star tournament.

John Scott
Photo by Christian Peterson for Getty Images

All of the talk was about how the NHL should change or limit the fan vote in the future so that more deserving candidates are elected as All-Star captains. And that’s all this really needed to be, a reminder that the fan vote is not always a great thing.

As for Scott, this must have legitimately been a dream come true. A guy who’s never been considered even a ‘good’ hockey player would now be able to captain an All-Star team; how cool is that? And, to boot, the winning team would get to split $1,000,000. So even though this might have started out as a joke, Scott had to have been thrilled with the way it played out.

But then, the NHL and Scott’s team, the Arizona Coyotes, decided to take things too seriously.

As thrilled as Scott probably was with the effort of the fans, the NHL and the Coyotes weren’t. They decided that their All-Star Game needed to be taken seriously and that no guys like John Scott should be there.

So they pulled an NFL and sabotaged the potential career of one man in favor of a weekend that supports their bottom line.

Reportedly, the Coyotes asked Scott to politely decline his All-Star spot in favor of giving up to someone more deserving, like Max Domi or Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Shane Doan. Naturally, Scott didn’t want to give up his All-Star spot as this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for him. So why would he want to give it up?

Bleacher Report’s Adrian Dater even went so far as to ask Domi, Ekman-Larsson and Doan whether they would accept Scott’s All-Star spot if he gave it to them. All three strongly suggested that they would do no such thing, with Doan declaring, “He is such a big personality, such a fun guy. It is what it is, man.”

When Scott wouldn’t decline his invitation – later saying “It’s one of those things where I never thought I’d be able to get to go, so when I found out it was a possibility, my family was like, ‘You have to go. It’s going to be so cool.’ … It’ll be one of those ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences” – the NHL and the Coyotes set wheels in motion to kill the fun and make Scott’s All-Star inclusion an impossibility.

On Friday, Scott was traded to Montreal in a 3 team deal with Nashville, and then immediately demoted to Montreal’s AHL affiliate. With Montreal being in the Eastern Conference, Scott is no longer qualified to be a Western Conference All-Star. TSN’s Bob McKenzie, probably the biggest NHL heavyweight reporter, tweeted that the fix was likely in, saying John Scott was previously asked by both NHL and Arizona Coyotes to bow out of NHL All-Star Game. He refused. Trade likely takes care of that.”

If the rumors are true and the NHL really did sabotage Scott’s All-Star captaincy like this, it’s absolutely despicable and I am totally disgusted. This is an All-Star game, it means absolutely nothing, it’s a fun weekend for all the players involved and some nice time off for all those not involved. It does nothing other than entertain fans and allow the players to have some fun playing the game they love; no playoff implications, no nothing.

So, naturally, the NHL decided to take it so seriously that they felt the need to sabotage the potential career – not just weekend – of John Scott. By trading him to Montreal – a team that really has no use for Scott – and then having him demoted, the NHL effectively ended his career over a fan vote, which the NHL put in place mind you, gone wrong.

As part of the dying breed of ‘tough guys’ or ‘goons’ in the NHL, Scott will become irrelevant in only a matter of years, and in the AHL his irrelevancy will only come sooner. And what did Scott do wrong? Absolutely nothing.

That’s the worst part of this whole debacle; the fact that Scott’s only error was not giving up his All-Star game captaincy, which he absolutely had a right not to do and he shouldn’t have even had to consider giving it up.

The NHL took this whole endeavor way too seriously, and they messed up really badly. Scott is an honorable guy who did absolutely nothing wrong, and the NHL, along with the Coyotes, sabotaged one of the best moments of his life and potentially his entire professional hockey career.

So, I ask the NHL to please right this horrendous wrong. Honor your fan vote and let Scott participate in his role of All-Star captain. The damage has been done, but at least do this for him. Admit your mistake and make things as right as they can be at this stage.

Don’t be evil like the NFL.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

Update: The NHL announced today that Scott would still captain the Pacific team at the All-Star game despite the trade to Montreal 

 

How the NHL Seriously Messed Up the John Scott Situation

One Final Ode to the St. Louis Rams

Please forgive me, for my emotions are still rather raw following the brutally anticlimactic end of one of the most painful and heartbreaking sagas I have ever experienced. The Rams are gone. It is done, and it is not changing.

My emotions, besides being raw, are mixed. I’m enraged, spiteful and disgusted with the NFL and the whole process of how this all happened. But at the same time, I’m just sad and disappointed. My mom always told me that life wouldn’t always be fair, and this was a cruel reminder of that fact.

We never really had a chance. From the very beginning, this team was destined for doom. The NFL and the Rams lied and squirmed and connived their way back “home” to Los Angeles. The NFL heartlessly lied to St. Louis, promising them a fair chance in keeping their team, when in reality the game was rigged and St. Louis had as much chance of keeping the Rams as you do of winning the Powerball without even buying a ticket.

It was disgraceful and offensive, and the NFL will reap what they sow. Their motives will never equate to true success, and evil always comes back around. Believe that.

As I’ve thought about it over the course of the past 24 hours, I’ve gotten much calmer. I say good riddance to Stan Kroenke and the NFL, two of the most purely corrupt and evil entities in this world. The NFL is an absolute mess, and as I said earlier, they will be ruined in due time as they will reap what they sow and discover that their cartel-esque motives will not be rewarded long term.

This city has had a tough past 18 months; from Ferguson to flooding, the Rams leaving just feels like being kicked while we’re down.

But one thing that no greedy, corrupt organization can ever take away from our city is our guts and our resilience. We are a blue collar town full of people that earn every cent and earn every ounce of respect they gain. We’ve been pushed down before, and we’ll just keep getting up and pushing forward. We are proud and we are strong, nothing can take that.

I said to forgive my emotions earlier, so if you’re reading this cynically please forgive that last, rather cheesy paragraph. I am a proud St. Louisan, born and raised, and unlike Stan, I won’t abandon this city when times get hard.

But as much as I say “good riddance” to the NFL and Kroenke, I will absolutely miss the Rams; more than I’ll ever let on.

The first memory I have of any professional sporting event ever is from the 2004 NFL playoffs. The Rams were playing in Seattle, and the game had gone to overtime. I didn’t know much else, but I knew that the first score won the game, and I knew that the Rams were my hometown team and I wanted them to win even though this was my first exposure to them.

Sure enough, Rams’ QB Marc Bulger lofted a perfect, 51 yard touchdown pass to Shaun McDonald to win the game for the Rams. I went absolutely nuts and was immediately in love. The Rams had my heart.

Turns out, the first Rams’ playoff game that I watched would be my last.

The Rams would never even have another winning season, but that never mattered to me. I supported them through thick and thin, and almost never missed watching a game. I found reasons to root for them and reasons to hope, and when their diabolical owner Stan Kroenke gave us his word, in 2010, that he would never take the Rams from us I believed it with every fiber of my being.

Nowadays, the Rams have naturally been superseded by my love of the St. Louis Cardinals, Blues, and probably even Manchester City FC someday soon, but even still, the thought of not having football in St. Louis is completely foreign to me.

I grew up with the Rams, I fell in love with them, and I always hoped that all of my fandom would someday be rewarded in some fashion. Instead I feel like an idiot for supporting a perennial loser that’s now been ripped out from under my faultless feet like a carpet. I – and all of the other loyal St. Louis Rams fans – are now left sitting hopelessly on our butts watching the dirty carpet we stood on for 21 years be carried away from us without a second thought, and our tailbones are probably bruised from such a nasty fall, not to mention Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones showing up unannounced to give us a few extra kicks to the ribs.

I’ve been asked this multiple times since the news of a Rams relocation was made public, but will I still root for the Rams in Los Angeles? I wish I could say no, but I absolutely still will. The team has my heart, and probably always will in some fashion, and I can’t just snap my fingers and suddenly be completely detached from them emotionally; sports are a part of me and I just can’t let go of the first sports team I ever loved quite so easily.

For the city of St. Louis, this is the right thing. It hurts really badly right now and will leave an eternal scar on our city’s figure, but soon enough we will see and reap the blessings of this. So, instead of looking back I’m going to take a second to look forward.

For the time being, we’re down to two professional teams; the Blues and the Cardinals. Both teams are highly successful, both between the lines and in the community, and both teams have a genuine affection for the city they represent. And, best of all, between Tom Stillman and the DeWitts, we have two of the most loyal and sincerely tremendous ownership groups in all of professional sports.

Having both met, shaken hands with and conversed with Blues’ owner Tom Stillman, I can verify everything said in the above paragraph. We are in good hands.

As for the void left by the NFL, I have no doubts that it will be filled in very short order. The wheels are already beginning to spin on an MLS project, and that process could go very quickly and be here sooner than you might think. St. Louis is a voracious soccer market – as proven by the attendance numbers for both USMNT and USWNT friendlies in combination with St. Louis’ ratings numbers for World Cup games being among the highest in the country – and the MLS would be wise to bring a team here now.

Dave Peacock has expressed his interest in heading up a committee to make things happen, the city has proven that it can put the necessary money on the table to provide a stadium, and I can guarantee that any professional soccer team would be ravenously supported by the best pound-for-pound sports market in the world.

The Rams are gone, and it is very sad. But as we all learned when we were kids, you get back up after you’ve been knocked down; and get back up we certainly will.

I’m damn proud to live in this city and stand beside it during these recent tough times – as I mentioned earlier, beyond just our football team leaving.

The NFL – and Stan Kroenke – will get their punishment in due time. As I said earlier, they will reap what they sow; the corrupt never truly win. And as Batman states in the Dark Knight Rises when asked, “why do we fall?”

“Because we must rise.”

-Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

One Final Ode to the St. Louis Rams

Ryan’s Rants: Stan Kroenke, Worst Owner in Professional Sports (part 2)

            On the previous episode of, ‘Stan Kroenke Sucks’, we took a look at some of the poor reasoning behind Kroenke’s relentless desire to move the (for now) St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles. On today’s episode of, ‘Stan Kroenke Sucks’, we will continue to look at his poor reasoning and continue to be angry and sad and bullied.

At the very base of Kroenke’s argument is his claim that St. Louis cannot support 3 professional franchises, and that “Any NFL Club that signs on to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin, and the League will be harmed.”

He also had the nerve to declare that “The current Rams ownership’s investment in the on-the-field Rams team has been significant.” This “significant” investment has resulted in a 52% increase in wins over the 5 years prior to Kroenke obtaining majority ownership. “But despite these investments and engagements, Rams attendance since 2010 has been well below league average.”

The 5 years before Kroenke took over the Rams’ majority ownership, the club won a combined 20 games. In the 5 years since, the Rams have won 29 games. Besides the fact that this is a 45% increase and Stan clearly dropped out of math class, 29 wins is still bad, but it’s not quite as bad as 20 wins.

“I can’t believe that these damn St. Louis people won’t come watch my losing team; the prior losing teams lost way more often. What a terrible market!”

Somehow, this sentiment goes widely misunderstood. I don’t get what’s so hard to understand about it; if the team is historically and consistently awful, people naturally aren’t going to come out in droves to dish out their hard earned money. Have the Rams had bad attendance over the past few years? Yeah, there’s no defending that. But what I will defend is the fact that St. Louis will voraciously support a successful football team with loyal ownership.

As soon as 2007 – a 3-13 season that began a historically awful 15-65 five year stretch – the average attendance at Rams’ home games was 65,326, or 100.3% of the total capacity. Naturally, attendance has declined since then and in 2015 bottomed out at 52,402 (80.2% total capacity). But as I mentioned earlier, nobody wants to spend their hard earned money to go watch a consistently awful team with a horrible owner in a below average stadium. What’s so hard to understand about that?

Also, the statement that any NFL team that is based in St. Louis will be “well on the way to financial ruin” is way off, and I have math to support that.

On page 23 of the Rams relocation application, Kroenke cites the TPI (total personal income) that a market would need to support a sports team, based on team revenue and ticket prices. The TPI base needed to support an MLB franchise is at least $104 billion, while an NHL franchise checks in at $50 billion, NFL at $48 billion, NBA at $45 billion and MLS at $14 billion.

The report states, “St. Louis, with TPI of $132 billion annually, doesn’t have enough personal income to support the teams it already has. To support the Blues, Cardinals and Rams, more than $200 billion is needed, the report found, meaning St. Louis had a TPI deficit of $70 billion annually.”

As Forbes pointed out, both Pittsburgh (for comparison) and St. Louis have total personal incomes (population x median personal income) of $15.1 billion. Tack on the metro areas around both cities and St. Louis comes in with a TPI of $133 billion versus Pittsburgh’s $118 billion; and St. Louis has more Fortune 500 companies than Pittsburgh at nine and six respectively.

Pittsburgh has 4 professional sports franchises, so according to the math here, Pittsburgh’s deficit would be about $129 billion. Yet they’re doing just fine out there. Your thoughts, Stan?

Oh wait; he doesn’t know how to talk. Moving on.

So I bet you’re probably wondering where Silent Stanley gets all of his hard hitting information. You’d expect some hard hitting sources, right? Well…no.

Kroenke argues that the Edward Jones Dome is the worst venue in the NFL. He cites a Sports Illustrated readers’ poll from 2008 (!) and an ESPN NFL Nation report. Obviously, these reports claim that the dome is the worst stadium in the NFL. And if these remarkably credible sources weren’t enough, he cites a Time Magazine ranking from 2012 that says the Dome is the 7th worst stadium in the nation. Number 8 on that list? Fenway Park.

I get it, the Dome is certainly not ideal and it’s not state of the art, but it’s not a dump. Last time I checked there wasn’t raw sewage flowing into the bathrooms and plastic cups taped to the ceiling to stop leaks, (re: Oakland County Coliseum).

And as I briefly cited in the last episode of ‘Stan Kroenke Sucks’, it’s not like the city of St. Louis hasn’t done its part in trying to upgrade the NFL stadium here. When construction began on the Dome in 1992, it was 100% funded by public money. The final construction cost was $280 million, which translates to $435 million in present day value. An additional $78 million was required to buy out the Rams lease in Anaheim and build an additional practice facility and headquarters in Earth City, Missouri.

In the new riverfront stadium proposal, the city has put $560 million on the table. $400 million in direct stadium construction money and $160 million in seat license revenue. So over the span of 23 years, the city of St. Louis has committed $918 million to two stadium projects. And what has that nearly $1 billion investment netted? A grand NFL tradition of 4 winning seasons in 21 years. Oh but how could St. Louis possibly ever support an NFL team?

And also, what in the world have Oakland and San Diego done to defend their proud NFL franchises?

San Diego: Nothing except for a sort of promise that they’ll have a plan by summer of 2016, which might fly if the deadline to submit a stadium plan wasn’t December 30th, 2015.

Oakland: Nothing. They’ve given the NFL the ‘come back to us’ signal.

Boy it must be really tough for all of those ethical NFL owners to tell which city has done the most to try and retain their NFL franchise.

And just because I’m not done bashing Kroenke, here’s one final note. Kroenke pats himself on the back in pointing out that the Rams won the Philanthropic Organization of the Year in 2010. The Rams players and staff have logged over 12,000 hours of community service in the greater St. Louis area and have made a real, lasting impact that has affected countless lives in a positive manner. But has anyone ever seen a picture, let alone even heard a story about Kroenke spending even a second working in the St. Louis community. It’s despicable to claim this award as part of his credibility is disgusting, deplorable, and only goes to further the notion that he’s a greedy Grinch who cares about literally nothing other than money.

Thus, on that note, we conclude today’s episode of ‘Stan Kroenke Sucks’. Stay tuned for Wednesday’s real life episode, where we potentially discover the real fate of the Rams. In case you can’t tell, I hope they can somehow stay in St. Louis while Kroenke can go to Los Angeles by himself.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

 

 

Ryan’s Rants: Stan Kroenke, Worst Owner in Professional Sports (part 2)

Ryan’s Rants: Stan Kroenke, Worst Owner in Professional Sports (Part 1)

Folks today is a good day. The official baseball HOF revealing is this afternoon and it is a time to celebrate the greatness of those selected. Unfortunately, today is also the day after Rams owner Stan Kroenke submitted his official relocation application the NFL. I have read all 29 disgusting pages, and I’m angry. So here we go with the latest installments of Ryan’s Rants.

I’m really not quite sure where to even start on this. I have such strong feelings about Kroenke that if I truly let loose on him it would be quite vulgar and not professional in the slightest, so I’ll try not to tear into him more than I really need to. That being said, good lord do I hate Enos Satan Kroenke, (pronounced ‘cranky’ if you’re Jim Nantz).

Kroenke 2
“I’m wearing a scarf in public, look how rich I am”

Whenever I see Browns fans complaining about how bad an owner Jimmy Haslam is, I shake my head and say to myself, “man, I wish we had an NFL owner that good.” Haslam’s biggest fault is that he wants to win a title for Cleveland so badly that he has almost zero patience with coaches and administrations and blows things up too often. Yeah it’s frustrating, but at least he cares.

And boy do I wish St. Louis had an NFL owner that even gave half of a rat’s ass about his team. ‘Silent Stanley’ has not once even remotely hinted at any sort of care about how the Rams do. He almost never shows up at games, he’s nowhere to be found for press conferences and he speaks publicly on the team maybe 5 times a year if he’s feeling generous.

So what’s he off doing?

Well, in case you didn’t know, Kroenke owns 4 other major professional sports franchises – the British Premier League Arsenal Gunners, the NBA Denver Nuggets, the NHL Colorado Avalanche, and the MLS Colorado Rapids. Now, besides this just being a recipe for disaster, the last time I checked the NFL had a rule that stated that no NFL owner can own a separate professional franchise. Somehow, Stanley is getting away with it.

And even though I don’t have personal insight on those other teams, I can almost guarantee you that he cares no more about them than he does about the Rams. Stan doesn’t care about the loyal fans that provide his franchises with the monetary support that eventually ends up in his pockets and he doesn’t care about the organizations under which his teams are run. No, Stan Kroenke only cares about one godforsaken thing.

Money

Kroenke 1
“I don’t know what to do with my hands. Yay Rams”

Now, I’ve criticized the NFL in the past for only caring about money, but to their credit the NFL does actually try to take care of its loyal fans because they understand that without fans there is no NFL. They have their obvious flaws, but the basis of that is somewhat admirable. You take care of the people that support you. Pretty simple concept, right?

Not for Stan apparently.

Between him and his wife – who freaking owns Wal-Mart, might I add – Stan Kroenke has $10 billion. Now, this could just be my middle class quibbling, but what in the hell could you possibly do with $10 billion? I’d run out of ideas after like $2 million. No one can possibly need every penny of $10 billion, that’s just a simple fact of living.

This is why the fact that Kroenke wants to move his NFL team to Los Angeles to make more money just hurts my head to think about. He’s 68 years old, he is worth $5 billion, he owns 5 professional sports franchises, and he wants more money. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU GONNA DO WITH MORE MONEY?

Is he saving up for something? Does he need a new Nissan? Does he need to save up to buy razors so he can trim the Hitler-esque mustache that rests above his lips? What could Stan Kroenke possibly need more money for?

Just based off that statement, one might fathom that Kroenke could care about the fans in LA and want to return their Rams to them. But then one would have to go back and realize that Kroenke was one of the main driving forces behind the team originally coming to St. Louis. And, as I mentioned earlier, he does not remotely care about any fan base, which pertains to Los Angeles as well.

In the Rams official, 29 page application to the NFL for relocation, Kroenke sights that St. Louis has promised their fan base a top flight NFL stadium for “30 years” yet that the Jones Dome remains “one of the worst stadiums in professional sports.” While I will not dispute the fact that the Dome is outdated and does need to be replaced, I will dispute the statement that St. Louis has promised a top flight stadium for 30 years.

The Rams just finished their 20th season in St. Louis. Last time I checked, 20 was less than 30. And also, the reason St. Louis hasn’t been able to deliver is because building a new stadium requires significant contribution from ownership, something Kroenke either doesn’t understand or simply laughs off because he needs to spend his billions buying modern artwork or another yacht.

For reference, when Busch Stadium III was constructed in 2006 it had a final cost of $365 million. Granted, this is nowhere close to the $1.1 billion required to construct the Rams proposed new riverfront stadium – we’ll get to that later too – but bear with me. Cardinal ownership footed the bill for $200.5 million or 54.7% of that total cost.

At the time, Cardinal owners were worth roughly $600 million, so this was clearly a huge gamble. The result of this gamble was one of the most beautiful stadiums in professional sports and franchise growth that now sees Cardinal ownership worth over $4 billion. And by the way, the DeWitts are among the most revered and admired figures in St. Louis and the Cardinals basically run this city. We love that team because it loves us.

Kroenke refuses to provide the necessary funds to make the St. Louis riverfront stadium project a reality while still stating that St. Louis has done nothing to make good on its promise to deliver a top flight NFL stadium. Yeah, besides providing a complete and thorough proposal that only needs a thumbs up from the NFL to begin construction, St. Louis has done nothing.

Also, Kroenke calls out Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, citing the “many months of silence” the preceded Nixon’s announcement of a stadium task force. Yeah, the guy who hasn’t spoken to the media since he hired Jeff Fisher in 2012 (that’s 4 years ago, by the way) is calling someone else out for being too quiet.

Kroenke 3
What the hell are you smiling about with your Donald Trump-looking toupee

The Rams were routinely criticized for their lack of action on a stadium task force while Kroenke never met with Nixon regarding the task force until November 30th of this year, nearly 3 months after the force was formed. And that meeting only happened because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell nudged Kroenke into it.

As I continue to dive deeper into Kroenke’s comments in his 29 page report full of hypocrisy and filth I just continue to be disgusted and miffed that one man could be so horrible. But, such is the life of Stan Kroenke, the man who claimed in 2010 that he would do “everything I can to keep this team in St. Louis” and has now completely and unfairly torn the team from the city’s clutches without a second thought.

More to come soon, stay tuned.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

Ryan’s Rants: Stan Kroenke, Worst Owner in Professional Sports (Part 1)